Candle fire causes significant damage to Third Avenue home

Hanukkah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. A Jewish man in Dickinson watched helplessly as firefighters battled a significant residential fire leaving his home all but destroyed after an unattended menorah candle set fire to the home on Tuesday evening.

What started out as an ordinary post-work rush in Dickinson turned into a nightmare when the Dickinson Fire Department responded to a residential fire in central Dickinson at 605 Third Ave. West.

At about 4:40 p.m., emergency responders received a call for service and Fire Marshal Mark Selle noted that the first crew arrived in pristine time. The fire raged on for minutes, but was fortunately quenched shortly after Dickinson Fire Department personnel arrived. According to sources at the scene, there were no injuries sustained to residents or firefighters but significant damage to the home was caused. The full scope of the damage is still being assessed.

“We were told that the homeowner had lit a seasonal candle and they left the room, so (they) let that candle unattended. When (they) came back and checked on it, it had fallen over and started the couch on fire. So it’s important for everybody to remember if you’re going to use Hanukkah candles during the holiday season, to not leave your room where you have that candle and keep an eye on it,” Selle said at the scene. “Being at home isn’t enough. You should stay in that same room.”

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Justin Bergum, one of three residents of the home, has lived at the residence for five years. He explained to The Press how he tried in vain to put out the flames with an extinguisher, but by the time they began the process there was no stopping the flames.

“By the time anything happened, the whole couch was on fire... By then, everything was on fire,” Bergum said, looking at the charred home from across the street which is currently not livable.

Bergum then called authorities immediately and with quick action, the Dickinson Fire Department were at the scene before Bergum even got off the phone, he said.

“Everyone’s safe, that’s the main thing,” Bergum said. “As long as I’m standing here talking about it, we’re good.”

Fire personnel assessed the scene checking for the possibility of burning embers inside the roof while Bergum and his roommates waited outside for a verdict.

“They (had) a great response time. The fire department, police department, sheriff’s department and Dickinson Ambulance Service arrived all pretty much simultaneously and worked together. That’s what we do — work together and everything got taken care of quickly,” Dickinson Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Moser said.

Volunteer Assistant Chief Curtis Freeman said that with newer materials in a home, it only takes approximately three and half minutes to become fully engulfed, a sentiment detailed by the Fire Marshal.

“It’s kind of standard with the type of materials that are used in construction for your furniture and everything you have in your home.... It takes just minutes for a whole room to catch on fire and you can see these people who are even in the house and they tried putting it out with an extinguisher and they weren’t able to. It grows very quickly,” Selle said, explaining, “That’s why it’s important to have smoke alarms and things that notify you when that stuff (happens). If this were to happen when they were sleeping, they may not have had an opportunity to get out of the house.”

The Red Cross made contact with the residents and will be assisting them in the days and weeks to follow. As more information becomes available, this story will be updated.

Structural fire chars $50,000 in destructive wake

The ear ringing alarms from the fire alarm system alerted the neighborhood at 1046 Sims St. Wednesday afternoon of a structure fire. Within five minutes from receiving the call for service, the Dickinson Fire Department were at the scene and quickly set to the task of battling the blaze.

At 12:56 p.m., the Dickinson Fire Department received the call about the structure fire which saw no injuries but required firefighters to enter the home to rescue a trapped dog. Firefighters were able to remove the dog safely and the fire was contained to the kitchen of the home, Dickinson Senior Firefighter Alaynea Decker said.

“The cause is still undetermined and it appears that it may have started in the kitchen. Our crew arrived on scene and made entry through the garage. With heavy smoke billowing from the garage, we made our way into the kitchen,” Decker said.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated according to Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell, who noted that the smoke and fire damage is estimated to be approximately $50,000.

When the fire crew arrived, they immediately cut a section of the roof open in a process known as vertical ventilation, before they went in to fight the flames and assess the situation.

Vertical ventilation is an essential and effective firefighting tactic that has proven viable as a ventilation method and has long been considered the optimal method of ventilation.

“So what that does is (it gives) vertical ventilation; we’re trying to release the heat upwards that clears conditions for our crews inside,” Decker said, explaining, “It raises that heat so they’re not pushed to the ground that much and it also improves visibility for them. It releases that heat and smoke for them.”

Decker wanted to encourage the public that it’s important to install smoke detectors and fire alarm systems in their homes, as well as replacing batteries every six months.

"Don't forget to change the detector every 10 years," she added.